MSU in East Lansing Uses Campus to Test, Develop Advanced Mobility


Michigan State University in East Lansing Thursday announced it is transforming its 5,200-acre campus into a live, connected ecosystem to drive mobility research and development. The campus has vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, connected traffic signs, and designated test areas, among other features.

Other technology on campus includes embedded pavement sensors charged through vibration; sensor and data fusion; biometrics for passenger identification, theft protection, and owner personalization; cybersecurity and data updates; ATSC 3.0 television broadcasting made available exclusively to MSU through an experimental Federal Communications Commission license; anonymous data collection of campus mobility to understand how people walk, drive, ride, and park; emergency vehicle prioritization, with a goal toward automated operation; smart parking systems; and electric vehicle charging systems.

The university is taking an interdisciplinary approach to the many factors associated with evolving transportation. MSU is focused on sociomobility, or understanding individual and societal effects of mobility.

“As a top-tier research institution, we are well-equipped to advance mobility by leveraging our campus-wide expertise and collaborating with strong industry partnerships,” says Satish Udpa, executive vice president for administrative services at MSU. “We are excited to showcase this holistic approach and invite partners to join us as we work to revolutionize the way people and goods move throughout the world.”

Research and testing are essential to answer questions raised by new transportation technology and about how populations, businesses, and urban planning will be affected. Policies, laws, practices, and communication must be in place before smart city features are safely implemented on a large scale.

“MSU’s campus is unrivaled in scope, size, and diverse mobility environments, providing an ideal testing ground and validation site. Studying mobility on football or basketball game days for example, will provide great insights on solutions for safely and efficiently navigating through densely crowded areas,” says Leo Kempel, dean of the College of Engineering. “In addition to using campus as an ecosystem for research and development of technologies, we are looking to develop the future of human-centric, multi-modal mobility.”

The autonomous vehicle technologies developed by MSU feature sensors as part of the CANVAS, or Connected and Autonomous Networked Vehicles for Active Safety, initiative. CANVAS researchers are developing multi-modal sensor fusion using radars, lidars, cameras, and advanced algorithms designed to created artificial intelligence for autonomous driving in four seasons of weather. They also include the university’s advanced sensing and processing technology, which at 97 percent detection accuracy, is industry-leading in anticipating pedestrian behaviors.

The campus’ smart systems work 24/7 and receive ongoing data from a campus that includes urban, suburban, industrial, and rural zones; nearly 60 lane miles of roads; more than 120 miles of pedestrian walkways and sidewalks; nearly 20 miles of bike lanes; nearly 40 traffic signals; a population of 70,000 students and faculty, as well as more than 100,000 people on campus on game days; 545 occupied buildings; 26,000 parking spaces; 30,000 vehicles on campus daily; and an 85-member police force.

MSU also has its Spartan Mobility Village, home of its mobility labs where roadways and parking lots can be closed for testing. In the future, unoccupied buildings will be used as a background for sensing technologies, including radar clutter simulating suburban and urban environments.

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